Why do some people spring from bed in the morning and sprint to work while others dread Mondays like an illness? It’s not money or fame. It’s not accolades or trickery. These people who run toward work know something the most others do not. It’s a solution most of us have heard, probably dismissed, and never fully thought through. But it’s not passive income.

For many people, the concept of work connotes drudgery and obligation, and passive income promises to cure its ills. Since Tim Ferriss wrote the New York Times Best Seller, “4-Hour Work Week” seemingly every blogger, side-hustler, and entrepreneur highlight its merits. Make money in your sleep. Find independence. Escape the rat race.

The idea of passive income isn’t new

Every pre-2008, house flipping, no-money-down, distressed property infomercial replayed the same script. Before that, talking-heads promised anyone could get rich with stock options or day trading. The premise is the same: make more money with no effort and fire your boss. Today’s iteration is called passive income.

Passive income asserts all work should be minimized because it is dreadful. But if passive income is also work then won’t it be dreadful too? If all work comprises mind-numbing and soul-crushing tasks, then passive income doesn’t fix the problem, it only lessens the pain. It’s like having a throbbing headache but only finding one aspirin. Doesn’t this mean passive income is merely less miserable than a 9-to-5?

No income is passive

Passive Incomists write daily blogs, host weekly podcasts, and create weekly videos. They scour dozens of local stores each day for deals that can be sold on Amazon. They repair toilets in rental properties or pay others to manage them. And during each day’s free milliseconds, they seek new opportunities or traipse social media to engage followers. Even the poster boy for passive income, Tim Ferriss, wrote four books, hosted a TV show, ran a daily blog, and tweeted tens of thousands of times. If that is passive what’s active?

Income is active by nature. If you’re not selling directly to customers, you’re trying to get them onto the website or into the door. After customers select the first item, you’re attempting to add a second. If you are not minding the store, your competition is passing you by. The answer isn’t to seek passive income; it’s to transform work into something meaningful.

As much as people begrudge work, the lack of it creates a void. Even when given a chance to relax, research shows that more than half of retirees prefer work. They seek the mental stimulation, challenges, and personal interaction that meaningful work provides. People just do not need the negative byproducts attached to many jobs. Work is not detrimental; soul-draining tasks are. Toxic work environments are. Meaningless work is.

Consider the time we spend on tasks that fulfill us, the ones that recharge our batteries, or the ones that provide a sense of accomplishment. Time passes unconsciously when learning something new, building something useful, or caring for someone who appreciates your assistance. Investing energy in the right task produces fulfillment not fatigue. Don’t minimize work; maximize fulfillment.

You may feel ordinary but you possess a combination of traits, skills, and interests that are distinct, valuable to others, and meaningful to you. You are a master negotiator who can find a sale in an empty room. You can manage one extracurricular activity, two schools, three kids, and a four-year degree. You’re a wizard who can teach financial health to people who fear math like it is a horror movie villain. You just don’t realize that your seemingly mundane skills are far from mundane. Just because they are easy for you, you assume they are easy for others. They are not!

Don’t mistake productive income for passive income. Be as efficient as possible. Leverage every tool and resource to minimize your effort and maximize your returns. However, passive income isn’t passive. Every business is a seed that requires water, weeding, food, attention, harvesting, and sale. It doesn’t grow, find a buyer, and exchange currency without your guiding hand. Anything requiring that amount of time and energy is either a passion or it’s dreadful. You pick!

Working on your own doesn’t mean chasing the zero-effort unicorn.  It requires finding common ground with others and sharing your experiences. It requires building a service or product that would have shortened your journey, eased your pain, or reduced your challenges. That’s your niche. That’s your unique business idea. That’s your impassioned income.